Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Progressive Education in the Black High School: The General Education Board's Black High School Study, 1940-1948

January 1, 2013

While my primary work at the Rockefeller Archive Center was focused on the Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored American Film Center and the Film Associates' 1940 documentary, One Tenth of Our Nation, a tangential and closely-related topic of research was the General Education Board's Secondary School Study, also known as the Black High School Study. In fact, this experimental project led to the discovery of the One Tenth film since, arising from my earlier archival explorations, I learned that this first documentary on African American education was shown at various participating schools. While I spent most of my time examining American Film Center and Film Associates materials, I continued to notice new information of this remarkable secondary school project in the field of progressive education.

Towards an Understanding of Progressive Education and "School": Lee Dick's 1939 Documentary Film on the Hessian Hills School

January 1, 2012

The documentary film School was commissioned by the Progressive Education Association for screening at the 1939 New York World's Fair. While filmed and produced by Lee Dick (one of the few female documentary filmmakers working in New York City at that time), the American Film Center coordinated the production with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). This project was conceived by the American Film Center as an experimental effort in low cost production and was described in a Newsweek article as the "first professional sound-and-dialogue documentary movie ever made on 16 millimeter film." This was not the only "first" claim made on behalf of the film. Lee Dick maintained that School was the first documentary film to abandon the use of a commentator. As she stated in a local newspaper article, "Let the children tell their story in their own way for it is a picture about real children in a real classroom." Entitled merely "school," the project sought to represent progressive education as endorsed by the Progressive Education Association (PEA), and I suspect that the generic title is an allusion to the closing paragraph of John Dewey's 1938 publication, Experience and Education, known to all members of the organization, where he asserts that what is needed "is education pure and simple" with "no qualifying adjectives" and no names or slogans.

Examining the Educational Film Work of Alice Keliher and the Human Relations Series of Films and Mark A. May and the Secrets of Success Program

January 1, 2010

Educational film from the 1930s and 1940s is currently receiving great attention in the fields of cinema studies and history of education. The Orphan Film Symposium, the leading research forum for the exploration of all films outside the commercial mainstream, featured education as a theme at its 2006 event, and an increasing number of visual pedagogy and educational film sessions have been scheduled at recent and forthcoming meetings of the American Educational Research Association, History of Education Society, Association of Moving Image Archivists, and the International Standing Conference for the History of Education. The journal Film & History published an issue in 2009 devoted to ascertaining the historical significance of the depiction of schools in film, and in 2010 the first collection of essays devoted exclusively to the history of educational film, Learning with the Lights Off,will be released.

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